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WWI CRACOTAN MEN IN FRANCE-LIFE CHANGING EVENTS

As we learn of the Cracotan men who fought in WWI we know the experience was life changing for all of them.  The lives of Peter Benedetto and Nicola Francavilla were cut short; Frank Muzio, and Antonio Spera carried their experience and injuries with them.  The remaining three men we are aware of that served in the US Army, Nicola Camperlengo, Nicola Roccanova, and Edmond Salomone also had life changing experiences.

Nicola Camperlengo

             Nick Camperlengo  was born on 1894 in Manhattan, New York to Vitantonio and Teodora LoRubio.  He was living at 50 Roosevelt St. and working as a shipping clerk for Michele Stramiello at 281 Front St. when he was inducted on April 27, 1918 .  He was reacted to He was assigned to the Medical Evacuation Hospital No. 28 and then on June 14 he was reassigned to Base Hospital No. 78.  Private Nick Camperlengo boarded the SS Anchises with his unit on Sept. 1, 1918 in New York bound for the European battlefields. His story and the horrors of war is best understood in the words about him from the late Dr. Henry Camperlengo who wrote the following:

“It was into that maelstrom that my “Uncle Nick,” whose memory I cherish as a kind human person saw in plentitude the horrors of war.  He and others worked untiringly night and day to the many wounded.  They soon exhausted basic medical supplies and even had to cut branches from trees to improvise splints.  After the wounded were rounded up they were painfully in trucks presumably headed to Base Hospitals.   Suddenly there appeared a squadron of German fighter planes and the entire column was machine gunned.  So many who had been carefully and exhaustingly cared for were now dead!  My Uncle sat under a tree and cried.”

Nick boarded the SS Dante Aleghieri on May 27, 1919 in Marseilles Harbor bound for NewYork with orders to report to Camp Dix.  The ship arrived on June 17th and he was honorably discharged the next day.  But as Dr. Camperlengo explains,

“He couldn’t tell us in words what effect it had on him.  I only learned to what extent this experience had on his psyche when I was a young psychiatrist in training. 

He had been remanded to the Northport VA [Veterans Administration] Hospital on Long Island for a psychiatric disorder that baffled the doctors at that time. 

I obtained his  medical records from the Northport VA and I saw plainly that the disorder he suffered from was P.T.S.D. or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an entity only recognized by the American Psychariatric Assoc. and the A.M.A [American Medical Association] in the 1980s.  He spent 10 years in that hospital frequently visited by family and when discharged became a groundskeeper at a private boys school on Long Island.  I understand that he was honored with a plaque in his memory by the boys for his kind ways and wise advice to them.  For me he became one of the chief reasons I became a psychiatrist.

Nicola Roccanova

Unlike the others from Craco, Nick Roccanova did not serve in the “Metropolitan Division” and had a different experience from them in France.

Nicola Roccanova was born on May 1, 1898 in Craco to Vincenzo and Isabella Sellare. His older brothers,  had emigrated to the US in the early 1900s as did a sister, Antonia who had married Paolo Benedetto in 1905.

We learn about Nicola’s story from Deborah Roccanova who is the wife of Nicola’s grandson Richard.  She says, that Nicola’s father sent him to the US in 1915 “hoping he would avoid being drawn into the war in Europe,” but fate would dictate a different story.

He was living with his brothers at 65 Sullivan St., in Manhattan when he enlisted in the US Army at Ft. Slocum, at David’s Island (in Long Island Sound off New Rochelle), NY on Nov. 27, 1917.  It was one of the busiest recruit training stations in WWI and housed many of those who joined in the government sponsored recruiting zeal that occurred  in November 1917; explaining Nicola’s action. In December the governemt ended voluntary enlistments and relied solely on the draft.

But on Dec 8th, Nicola was assigned to Battery C of the 18th Field Artillery  Unit.  He would serve with them until his discharge.  His service records show he boarded the USS Aeolus  with his unit in Hoboken, NJ on April 23, 1918 however the departure was delayed and the Unit transferred to the USS Manchuria on April 30 when it sailed to Europe. 

Nicola and his unit were attached to the 3rd Division in France.  They distinguished themselves earning the French Croix De Guerre with Gilt Star on the battle streamers for the Champagne Marne and Aisne-Marne campaigns and was instrumental in helping to defeat the Germans during an final assault known as the “Ludendorff Offensive.”  After the German surrender, they served a tour of occupation duty.  Nicola  and hisunit boared USS Agamemnon in Brest, France arriving eight days later in Hoboken.  He was discharged August 22nd.

Deborah Roccanova tells us more about his experiences and how they impacted Nicola.  She says, He was gassed with mustard gas…The effects of the gas did affect his lungs the rest of his life.  He was hospitalized  with TB for 11 months in 1944 at a sanitarium in upstate NY.” 

She continues about the period after the war while he was stationed in France, “…he did attempt to return to Craco to see his parents and family.  This was denied due to the Spanish flu epidemic and all soldiers were confined to base.  He never saw his parents again…but his mother Mary (Francavilla) Roccanova died from the flu in 1918…” when it struck Craco.

We also learned from Deborah that Nicola married Isabella Sillaro (born 1898, Craco).  She was the daughter of Giuseppe and Rosa Dolcimele.  After their marriage in Manhattan in 1920 Nicola worked with his brothers in a paper box making business, for a while.

Deborah tells us after that he, “drove taxi and eventually owned his own laundry and small apartment buildings. …Nicholas did eventually moved to Sacramento, CA at the urging of his son Vincent and wife Lois.  Nicholas and Isabella lived a very happy and successful life, investing in real estate and surrounded by family in Sacramento.  …Nicholas did return to Craco and Roccanova Italy in 1978…

Edmond Salomone

The experience of Edmond Salomone during WWI was unique.  He was born in Manhattan on March 24, 1897, the son of Michele Salomone and Angela Mormando.  On Sept. 9, 1918 he was drafted into the US Army and sent to Camp Gordon, GA.  With the war raging in Europe the Army had developed plans to train recruits to replace the battlefield soldiers. Edmond was assigned to the 14th Infantry Replacement and Training Battalion.   On Oct. 18 he was assigned to the Automatic Replacement Draft designed to fill in the ranks of soldiers in Europe.  Just 5 days after the armistice on Nov. 16, he was transferred to Company C 162 Infantry and shipped overseas on November 27th.  He served there until returning to the US on July 27, 1918 and was demobilized on Aug. 2nd.  

Brothers in Arms—Edmond Salomone (right) is shown with his future brother-in-law, Joe Chicichella when both were in the US Army in 1918.

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